• Ilan Cooley

1918

Updated: Mar 22

"A lot of women came before me to forge the path I now walk freely. I am thankful for the women who set precedents, and anyone who supported them. I am grateful, and humbled to follow in your footsteps."

My grandfather was born in 1918. A lot has happened since then, including the fact he has been gone 25 years.


He was born into a pandemic, and a world war. He saw a lot of change, including the invention of computers, and the internet, although I’m quite sure he never used either. There were a lot of medical advancements in his time too, like the invention of insulin, and the cancer treatments he received to extend his life. He was the kind of guy who seemed to always have a positive outlook, despite the things he must have gone through. One other thing he was also a part of was the advancement of women—his wife, his daughter, and me, and his other granddaughters included.


My grandmother was a strong person, and they were a strong couple. Together, they raised strong children. My grandparents raised their daughter, my aunt, to believe she could be, do, and achieve anything she set her mind to, and she accomplished many commendable things. My grandparents, parents, and aunt are the foundation of my own strength. I am fortunate to have had that kind of tremendous, and unwavering support.


I didn’t think much about 1918 until recently. I didn’t know about the impact of the Spanish Flu until we faced our own global pandemic. A lot of people have said our situation is unprecedented, but it isn’t really. Something like this happened in my own grandfather’s lifetime.

Since then, even if we don’t realize it, we have benefitted from many inventions and medical discoveries that have made our path to better health, and better times possible, even if getting through it has not been easy. As the world shut down, despite technology connecting us in amazing ways, many people, myself included became isolated. We were asked to stay home to keep ourselves, and others safe. It was a small thing, that had a huge downside. I think the state of being alone is the most unprecedented part of this pandemic.


I realize not everyone sheltered at home solo. I know there was no ideal situation. Each scenario had its own challenges, some more dire than others. I thought about what life would have been like in 1918. I imagine there were many obstacles and hardships. I also imagine people lived differently, especially women.


If I was alive in 1918, I would not have likely lived alone. I would not have likely owned property, or had my own business. I would likely not have been independent at all. If I was single, perhaps I would have lived with family, or friends, but I would surely not have lived on my own in a house I bought and paid for.


It is difficult to think of trading my independence for companionship. There were times I would have considered it. Being cut off from people, and my work were tough obstacles to endure. I am still dealing with them. I am grateful I was raised to be strong. I have needed to lean into that strength many times.


I know I am fortunate.


I have maintained the ability to take care of myself financially. I still have the support of friends and family. I have a voice in this world, and I'm using it. I know I will survive this 'unprecedented' solo journey through a pandemic. I have learned lessons that will propel me forward in life.


Today is International Women’s Day. Women’s Day has been celebrated in parts of the world since 1911; I looked it up. That's the year my nana was born. She also lived through the 1918 pandemic. Her life was never easy. Her mother died when she was a child, and when her father was unable to care for her, and her two brothers, they went to an orphanage, and she was sent to work on a farm. She later raised three children—my mum, uncle, and aunt, all on her own. They grew up to be strong. I guess you could say I'm fortified. A lot of resilience has been passed down to me. I think it's in my blood.


A lot of women came before me to forge the path I now walk freely. What a great precedent to reflect on, as I ponder things that are unprecedented. I am thankful for the women who set precedents, and anyone who supported them. I am grateful, and humbled to follow in your footsteps.

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